Monday, January 28, 2008

John McCain and the Irrational Right

In yesterday's post, John McCain, the Irrational Right, and the Politics of Immigration Control, I provided a critical analysis of the McCain campaign's controversial hiring of Dr. Juan Hernandez as Latino Outreach Coordinator.

The entry generated
some emotional remarks and exchanges in the comment thread.

But readers should remember, first and foremost, I disagree with the Hernandez appointment: "McCain's made a big mistake, at least in terms of courting the secure-borders conservative base." I think it's a gamble to rile the party's base, even if the campaign's adopted a strategic perspective of appealing to particular demographic constituencies in the primaries.

That said, none of the commenters has presented sufficient evidence to discount my hypothesis. Indeed, a couple of folks have remarked that the thread itself is evidence of an irrational, even hysterical right-wing echo chamber - and geez, I'm trying to raise the quality of debate!!

In any case, I'm responding here to some of the points raised, particularly the concerns over (1) the notion of "the irrational right" among the conservative base, (2) the candidates' records on immigration and other areas of public policy, and (3) issues of credibility and honesty.

Let me remind folks right off the bat that I'm a neoconservative Republican, and my ultimate goal this year is GOP retention of the White House. I'm just deeply disappointed with the decline in the quality of debate among conservatives, and I've expressed my thoughts to that effect on at least two occasions (
here and here).

Some regular commenters have hammered me personally because of my McCain posts, for example, attacking me as a "Democrat" or "calling me out" with virtual threats for reporting critically on the GOP race.

Truth be told, I'm having a great time!

Since December,
when John McCain began his comeback to the current frontrunner's position, I've been consistently accurate in my analysis, and I've also posted continuously on polling trends throughout.

I have refused to attack any of the candidates, focusing primarily on developments on the McCain trail. As a bonus, my productivity has resulted in a record number of over 130 post this month so far, and I've been frequently linked in national media and by some top conservative bloggers on the web. I must be doing something right, and thanks to all my readers and commenters!

Now, first let me address this issue of the "irrational right." I'm using the term irrational precisely, that is, as the absence of reason or careful analysis. I have most certainly not called anyone a "bigot," although that term came up
in the comments yesterday.

No, many conservative have become blinded by their IDEOLOGICAL PREJUDICES, which has prevented them from thinking clearly. On talk radio, and among popular conservative bloggers, John McCain's been relentlessly demonized. These atttacks are juvenile and shamelessly undignified. I think we are better than that as a movement, and I'm not the only one.

Check the recent discussion of the conservatives' descent over at Opinionnation, "
Conservatives Acting Like Left-Wing Lunatics":
John McCain is a true American hero; a great American. Yet, because his stance on certain issue differ from those of many conservatives, the man is ostracized and childishly attacked. -Almost no different than what the far-left did to senator Lieberman for his opinions in favor of the war in Iraq. It sickens me to be associated with a group of people sharing such a hateful group-think against a prominent republican like senator McCain.

And just like leftist internet blogs, when I visit major conservative websites like Michelle Malkin, Hot Air, or LGF, the comment section is inundated with vile slanders against the character of John McCain. Worse yet, the blogsite owners, as with the case of Daily Kos or Crooks and Liars, are instigating the hatred. All of this simply because the man doesn’t toe every single conservative line. And in that regard, these types of conservatives are no different than far-left liberals.

If you disagree with John McCain on certain issues… fine! Disagree. There’s no problem there. But if conservatives want to act like Left-Wing lunatics… then I’m going to point it out. -But the MDS (McCain Derangement Syndrome) has to stop. The man is a patriot who deserves respect; not a bunch of fuckin’ insults from whiny conservatives!!!
Opinionnation makes a critical point: We on the right have consistently identified and denounced left-wing irrationalism and moonbattery among the wildly radical "nutroots."

I think conservatives are better, frankly, on the issues, and in matters of class.

But others on the right are also speaking out at the descent of the right into irrationality:

This evening when I was watching Brett Baier’s excellent interview with President Bush I suddenly understood what is going on between the lemming conservatives lead by their narcissistic demagogues in talk radio, punditry, and in the blogsphere and John McCain....

No matter how hard our demagogue conservatives have tried to destroy George W. Bush he is still the same Texas Cowboy....

But – the vitriol, the treachery, and the abject cruelty that conservatives, those who claim to be part of his own party have exhibited is disgustingly immoral at best....

They have become increasingly shrill and increasingly cruel in their attacks upon anyone who dares to oppose them....

Somehow reason must be brought into play here. Somehow these individuals must be made to see that their actions are endangering not only a GOP victory in the fall, but the very course our nation is following. If their actions were not so treacherous and so dangerous, they would be almost humorous. Alone, they are nothing but a handful of annoying fleas on the tushie of the Great Elephant. Together, they are an uncompromising swarm of vermin that must be controlled or we will all suffer what could be catastrophic consequences.

The most perfect, beautiful irony here is these narcissistic demagogue talk show hosts are leading us down a path of defeat that will eventually lead to their own demise....

An agenda of hate and vitriol ultimately leads to destruction....

Michelle Malkin has taken vile, vitriolic, cruel, mendacious, prevaricating, hate and slander to a new low. She has evolved into a far right attack maven whose leash is held by her intellectual betters. Unfortunately they are the very worst example of what humanity has to offer, re-acquainting us with scenarios that all moral people everywhere swore would “Never Again” be allowed to happen. Once crossed, she does not stop until the object of her ire is utterly and completely vanquished.

Hugh Hewitt, a once acceptable conservative thinker and writer has turned into a two-bit, manipulative canard spewing hack. Before this election season is over his credibility will be compromised, hopefully forever.

Laura Ingraham, sporting an excellent FOX News make-over is a shrill, unbending, advocate of an extreme version of conservative values that allows no room for human frailty or vulnerability.

Ann Coulter is not worth mentioning aside from that fact that the conservative establishment has so fawned over her completely unacceptable and malicious remarks that now everyone in her little world thinks that it is acceptable to ape her atrocious behavior.

Sean Hannity is all over the place with his conservative ideology. The only center he has is the fact that he really doesn’t consider himself Republican.

Mark Levin is rapacious, petty, and completely lacking logic as he completely defames John McCain while building up the false resume of Mitt Romney.

I think that is the real problem. The conservatives we are dealing with, those who follow Rush Limbaugh and lack the courage to speak out against his increasingly irrational hatred of John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Once against hard-line immigration, Limbaugh has done an about face, and has adopted Michelle Malkin’s increasingly cruel and vindictive methods. Anyone who disagrees with NumbersUSA and FAIR must be destroyed to the point of abject annihilation. Only those who have pure conservative ideology must be allowed to survive.

I have also called to account (here and here) the "Malkinites" and the "Rush-bots" for their unprincipled, intemperate attacks. I've suggested that those who now hold themselves as purists of the movement are indeed working for the death of the GOP. (I hope I'm wrong, but so far this election season I've been accurate in my analysis. Check back here in November for an update in case of a GOP collapse.)

The irrational right's backlash against McCain seeks more than winning the nomination for a favorite candidate: We're see nothing less than an attempt at the complete and utter destruction of the Arizona Senator (see
Malkin's new, foaming attack on the GOP frontrunner).

Now, I must say that Mike, from
Mike's America, made a decent stab at analysis in the comments. I appreciate the feedback, although I take exception (as noted) to the idea that the notion of the "irrational right" is tantamount to calling McCain critics bigots. This I have not done, so it's an unfair attack.

Besides that, with all due respect, Mike makes an emotional case that illegal alien families with anchor babies are making out better than most legal Americans. Who knows if they are - all Mike's offered are anecdotes? Besides, such questions are better focused not on John McCain but the federal government and the state legislatures, who determine the rules for WIC recipient payouts.

Mike also, unfortunately, resorts to the common - but lazy - tactic of calling the Bush immigration reform "amnesty." If there was ever a term designed to incite the irrational right's talk radio audiences, this is it. But it's not analysis, frankly.

The bill contained three main elements: a workable visa program for immigrant laborers, increased border and workplace enforcement, and a large-scale earned legalization program for illegal aliens already in the U.S.

Immigration experts consider a feasible combination of these measures a prerequisite for reform, although last year's debate showed that border enforcement must come first politically. Tamar Jacoby, one of the country's top immigration experts, in residence at the neoconservative Manhattan Institute, discussed the imperative of legalization in
the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs:

The third leg of the comprehensive vision - legalizing the illegal immigrants already here - is the most controversial, and without it, reform legislation would undoubtedly pass much more easily. But this, too, is an essential ingredient. It makes no sense to build a new immigration policy on an illegal foundation; neither new quotas nor new enforcement will stick as long as there are 12 million illegal immigrants living and working in the country.

Some opponents of reform insist that the government deport these unauthorized residents. Others maintain that more strenuous law enforcement would persuade them to leave voluntarily, by making it difficult or impossible for them to work, secure loans, attend school, or obtain driver's licenses. In fact, neither of these approaches is likely to succeed. Many of these people have lived in the United States for years, if not decades. Many own homes and businesses and have given birth to children who, because they were born in the United States, are U.S. citizens. A drive to deport them would cost billions and strike much of the public as unacceptably draconian. As for an attrition strategy, it would only drive immigrants further underground, deeper into the arms of smugglers and document forgers.

The only practical solution is to give these unauthorized workers and their families a way to earn their way onto the right side of the law. This should be done not just for their sake but also because it is the only way to restore the integrity of the immigration code, bring the underground economy onto the tax rolls, and eliminate the potential security threat posed by millions of illegal immigrants whose real names no one knows and who have never undergone security checks.
Michael Medved also offered a powerful takedown of the amnesty slur in a recent column.

Jacoby and Medved, of course, will be attacked hysterically as immigration sellouts by the Rush-bots. But, as I've said, emotional appeals on the neighborhood dislocation from unchecked immigration do not disconfirm the facts of the 2007 reform bill's earned legalization particulars.

Finally, one of the main charges raised in the comments is that McCain's a liar and can't be trusted. Yet, unsurprisingly, no one's provided hard evidence or substantiation on that point.

I consider McCain a man of virtue. He'll play political hardball, sure, but his record in Congress is one of principled stands on the issues - indeed, his "maverick" reputation's one of the main charges against him as not being a true conservative.

Not only that, McCain opponents suffer from a serious double-standard. Take supporters of Mitt Romney, for example. At least one Romney backer here as called me to account for McCain's alleged lies, with no evidence, of course. But what about Romney? Is he beyond reproach?

In an interview on Meet the Press, December 16, 2007, Romney argued in favor of the Bush administration's immigration reform bill: view is that those 12 million who've come here illegally should be given the opportunity to sign up to stay here...
Read the whole passage.

Clearly Romney indicates support for some measure of legalization. Thus, it's drastically hypocritical to pillory John McCain for working to amend the nation's failed immigration system while backing an illegal alien-enabling governor who supported the very same program!

But what about honesty? Is Romney more truthful a candidate than John McCain?

A McCain ad currently running in Florida media markets shows Romney not only flip-flopping on his record, but patently denying he's ever switched position on the issues. Isn't that lying? Where's the outrage among the Romney backers? Talk about the unprincipled (irrational) right?

Not only that, a look at Romney's tenure of Governor of Massachusetts reveals a record of - honestly - sheer hypocrisy. This is a man who
employed illegal immigration landscapers for over a decade. Let's stress that: OVER A DECADE.

One can argue that he hired the firm, not the workers, right? But this is a ten-year pattern of lawbreaking by a man who claims to have the experience and integrity to run the executive branch of the United States!

American business leaders
see Romney as pushing a fundamentally dishonest record on taxes during his Massachusetts administration:

Mitt Romney's Harvard MBA and gold-plated resume convinced many business leaders he would follow in the tradition of corporate-friendly Republicans when he was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.

Within three years, some had a vastly different opinion, after Romney's efforts raised the tax bill on businesses by $300 million as part of a multifaceted plan to eliminate a state budget deficit estimated from $2.5 billion to $3 billion.

Romney, who is now running for president declaring he never raised taxes as governor, says he merely closed "loopholes" in the tax code. Business leaders see things differently.

"These certainly were tax increases and a new source of revenue for the commonwealth," said Brian Gilmore, executive vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state's largest business lobbying group.

"His indicating that he balanced a budget without raising taxes is misleading at best," Gilmore added. "We respectfully disagree."
In the GOP primary race in Florida, a major state business association has graded the candidates on business friendliness, assigning Romney a grade of "D-":

The Republican Primary Endorsement of the South Florida Newsletter for Business Growth goes to Sen. John McCain. It is his program that best serves South Florida businesses and American businesses in general....

John McCain A+

Based on his 25 year consistent record of fighting wasteful spending, the fact that his economic program is innovative and hits on all major economic issues facing America and the fact that he is uniquely able to achieve passage of his program through Congress. The other candidates may have some good ideas, but if they have no realistic way of seeing them enacted their programs become of little value....

Mitt Romney D-

If Gov. Romney were to have championed a conservative economic course, we would have examined the merits of the program and graded it accordingly. Likewise, if Romney had championed a liberal economic course, we would have examined the merits of the program and graded it accordingly.

Instead the Gov. has been all over the place. The same man who just last year proposed criminalization of refusal to carry health insurance in his own state has now campaigned as a nouveau economic conservative. Of course, that was until he went to Michigan, where he again switched back to an economically liberal position, one that involved bailouts that seem unlikely to be sustainable.

His economic “positions” seem to change from state to state and from one debate to the next. This kind of grandstanding is simply not worthy of comment and certainly cannot be analyzed.

It also must be noted that the economic experience he touts does not work in his favor. Romney has a record of merging companies, something that may benefit a particular corporation, but that generally involves laying off workers. In any case, it has nothing to do with promotion of general economic growth.

It is not my goal to take down any candidate.

But the information is available to make an accurate and fair comparison between the current GOP frontrunners. As the Boston Herald pointed out a few weeks back...

John McCain has over 25 years of conservative experience in Congress; Romney served four years as governor of one of the country's most liberal states.

McCain's a war hero. He volunteered for combat duty. He was held prisoner of war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” for 6 years. He refused to cave on his principles for early release; Romney saved the Olympics.

McCain received a 90 percent rating from the Americans for Tax Reform in 2005, and and 80 percent rating in 2006; Romney raised the state's gas tax and got a C grade from the libertarian Cato Institute.

Read the whole thing.

In closing, I want to remind readers that I deeply admire Mitt Romney - and I'll back him eagerly and forcefully should he win the primary.

In the interest of maintaining a unified party, that's the least I should do. More importantly, I will not demonize any candidate - we have no enemies on the right (excepting Ron Paul, of course, who's not genuinely Republican).

I would expect - out of fairness and principle - McCain opponents to do the same.